Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Schleifer - August 1, 1982

Beginning of War, Fear and the Roundup

Okay. Oh, where, where were you when the war began?

We talk when the war began. We were in Sobrance.

All right. How did you hear about, about the war?

Oh, as, as I said, the only thing late uh, uh beginning '44 that's, that's actually when we knew that really uh, uh, the war was really on. While the, the Germans started to uh, uh, goin' through our town and goin' to Poland to reinforce their, their things, whatever was that. After that, the, they got us to a uh, uh to Uzhorod where was a brick factory. That is where we stayed. All the Jews from the vicinity and all the little towns. They brought them in and there we stayed there for about a month, month and a half before they took us to Auschwitz.

When you first heard about the war, what--do you remember your thoughts, your feelings at that time?

Oh, as I said uh, uh, it wasn't uh, too much, uh.

How did your family respond to the news of the war?

Well, they knew it wasn't going to be good for the Jews. They, they knew it was going to be something very drastic against the Jews.

Well, well let me, let's expand upon that for a second. How did--what is it that they were afraid of? What had they heard?

Well, that, that was the biggest thing that they had, hadn't heard the, the things what they should have heard. If they would have heard, they, it would have been altogether different. They wouldn't have taken them to the slaughterhouse, to Auschwitz, but they, nobody heard nothing. It was just gradually come back the, the, the things. But, by the time they heard, really, what was happening it was too late. There couldn't be nothing done [pause] because they just took us just like uh, uh, just like cattle to the slaughterhouse. That is exactly what happened.

Were there any options your family had uh, when they first heard about the war?

Oh, the options they would have had but uh, it was too late to do anything, actually, to go in hiding or whatnot. It was too late. You, you got to plan to those things. You cannot just uh, decide on the spur of the moment and do it. No way, shape or form. Nobody can do it. You have to plan on those things and when you live, actually, our town wasn't the smallest town. It was the biggest town. Everybody knew you were on the whole vicinity you couldn't, couldn't have got hide if they know you. If I would have come from a small town and nobody knows let's say, 50 kilometers down someplace else, you could have hide, hidden, but my family everybody knew my father and, and the, the family. So, he couldn't just hide that easy.

So, before but from the time they heard about, first heard about the war to the time when you are saying it got to be too late to do anything, did your family realize any dangers?

Well, they, well they actually, actually the things what they heard is, is when, when they took, when they, when they round all the Jews up and took us to Uzhorod to that uh, uh, so-called uh, I wouldn't, wouldn't say some kind of, it was a camp where all the Jews were we was going to be taken to some kind of farm where everybody is going to have work. Or factories wanted to work but no one said they are going to take us to slaughterhouse, to Auschwitz. We found it out later.

Oh, oh, okay, let's, let's talk about when the Nazis first started coming into your town uh, did anything change, the routines change? Were the schools closed? Did anything change?

Well, actually, actually we were out of school and so there was no, no changing or nothing. After then, I didn't go back to school. I went into camp so there was nothing changed, see instead of all too much.

All right. Do you remember when you first started seeing German uh, soldiers in your town?

Yeah. [dogs barking]

[laughing] We are paused for an intermission here folks. The dog has to say. Okay.

All right. Uh, what was the question now?

The question was do you recall when it was that you first saw German soldiers in your town?

Well, actually, we didn't see that many German soldiers in the town because they were just going in transport, were just going through. It wasn't uh, uh, uh staying in our town. Just, the only transports that were going to Poland. That was the nutshell and see the Germans was the last ones which went to Hungary. So, there was the, the last resort. They all went to uh, uh, all went to Czechoslovakia but Hungary they left 'til last. That is why we was lucky enough. Maybe that's why I'm still alive was the last getting to the camps because the majority of Poland and, and Hungary, not Hungary but in Poland, then Czechoslovakia, all the Jews. They were in there much, much longer than we were, especially and, and the Czechs, hell, they, they were four years prior to that when they got them.

All right. So, when, when uh, when the war, as the war is progressing, you were in Hungary at the time.

Right. It was, there was, that part was taken by Hungary. In 1939, Hungary took that part of Czechoslovakia, see.

Was there ever the feeling that you would escape any problems during the war? That the Nazis wouldn't touch you?

Oh, no, that's one thing we never, never knew what. Actually, we didn't know nothing about it just about 'til the last moment. As I said, it was too late to do anything.

Did the newspapers carry news of the war?

Uh, uh, you see there was no free press like you have here.

All right.

The, the, they didn't print the things.

All right, now we're, we're--I'm asking questions, of course, that I want you to expound upon on the tape. Uh, you had, you had a newspaper in the town?

Well, actually the, the newspaper, I don't think there was any print that in our town there was printed in Uzhorod, but the paper came in but wasn't uh, it wasn't exuberant, very close on the, on the war. Actually, you are not gonna print any, anything you and there was already Germans was losing the, the war was not, because all those Germans are trying to reinforcement what they want. They never, never wrote that. They always uh, wrote that the Germany is winning, you know. But, that, that's the whole thing in a nutshell.

Uh, did you listen much to the radio?

A radio, maybe the folks listened, but I didn't. I mean, as a kid, what, what uh, did I know in politics as a fourteen year old. Today, today you have the difference that the fourteen year old have more and parties at the time when I was growing up. I mean, we wasn't uh, interested in politics then. And the whole world has changed. I mean, let's, let's face it. They made us change. Let's put it what way.

You're right. [pause]

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